It’s that time of year when many of us commit to making changes in our lives. Unfortunately, New Year’s resolutions tend to fail at notoriously high rates (over 80% in most studies).
So, what can you do to “beat the odds” and, more importantly, set yourself up for a great year to come? Here are 9 tips:
1) What’s So Special About January 1st?
There are a few ways to look at this.
First, if you haven’t already changed a behavior, how important is it to you, really? And, is an arbitrary date really going to make a difference? In reality, probably not. And that’s why most resolutions fail.
However, research has also shown that natural “breaking points” such as a new job, a new week, and quarter, and certainly a new year can be opportunities to write that new chapter.
So, by all means, use any opportunity to make a positive change in your life.
The key to making any change, however, is a deeper level of understanding. So, let’s talk about that next…
2) Understand The Barrier
The first question to ask yourself when contemplating a change of behavior is “why don’t I already do this?” In other words, what is the barrier? What’s holding you back? What are the root causes? What are the underlying emotional reasons?
Without understanding your current barrier, you’re doomed to failure. It’s essential that you spend the time and do the emotional “detective” work. Professional help be of great assistance in such a process and can help you ensure long-term success.
3) Find Your “Why”
If the first question (above) is trying to understand why you aren’t already doing (or not doing) this behavior, the next question should be “why do I want or need to do this now?” In other words, what is your emotional motivation?
Making a lasting change requires strong desire. You’re going to need more than a passing desire if you want to truly make a change and overcome your barrier.
And again, it’s worth taking as much time as you need to really understand these “under the surface” emotions. They’re the key to lasting positive change.
An important corollary remains: Don’t be afraid to cross a project or change off your list. How did this really end up on my list, but never get done? It’s possible it just isn’t that important to you. That’s okay. The quickest way to finish a project is to cancel it. So if you’ve been beating yourself up for never getting to a resolution you made last year, but conclude it’s actually just not that important to you, cross it of the list, and keep it off. Done.
4) Conduct An Experiment
Rather than an open-ended and “forever” resolution, some people find conducting a month-long experiment a much more effective tactic. In other words, simply commit to a behavior change and stick to it (fully) for one month.
This has several benefits. First, mentally knowing you’re only committed for one month can remove some pressure. And, doing just about anything for a month is doable for most people.
Next, after a month, you’ll know if this change is beneficial. If not, you can let it go.
Finally, assuming after a month that you find the new behavior beneficial, you’re already well on your way to making it a lifestyle habit and you will be even more emotionally invested going forward.
5) Automate Specific Behaviors
Studies have shown that people who achieve what is called “habitual automaticity” stand a much higher chance of success.
In other words, you want to build a new habit into your life without having to think much about it.
How would this work? Simply plan the when and where of your new habit. Are you setting out to exercise more? Put it in your schedule…say every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 7.
6) Make It Measurable
Breaking goals into smaller, more measurable pieces can make a challenging goal less daunting and more achievable.
One way to do this is to reverse-engineer your goal. Start with the result in mind. Then break it down by certain milestones.
Perhaps it’s a mini-goal by February 1st. Perhaps it’s achieving a certain number of tasks per day.
The key point is to know your destination, but to map out all of the stops along the way.
7) Hold Yourself Accountable
Accountability is essential to achieving major goals. This could come in the form of making a public statement to people who matter to you. It could come in the form of hiring a coach. It could come in the form of working together with a partner who has similar goals. Bottom line…the more systems you can put in place to hold yourself accountable, the better your odds of success.
8) Don’t Let A “Slip” Derail You
Remember, a small sip up doesn’t doom you to failure. In fact, research has found that when studying successful resolutioners over the course of two years, the vast majority slipped up at least once and the average “success story” slipped up 14 times!
In other words, if you fall off the horse, just get back on!
9) Celebrate Progress
Along those lines, be sure to celebrate your progress. Are you on pace with your goal? Take the time to congratulate yourself. Or, let’s say you wanted to lose 20 pounds but you’re only down 10. You could beat yourself up, of course, or perhaps you could look at the progress you’ve made…you’ve actually lost 10 pounds and you’re so much closer to your goal than when you started!
Out with the old and in the with new? Not exactly…its important to like the old you! But you can use the opportunity to make meaningful change at this natural breaking point. If you have questions or concerns about how to make changes or which changes to make in your life, contact my office at Amanda.Itzkoff@gmail.com. To schedule an appointment, call our offices at 917-609-4990.